Skip to Content

Willie Ray Fairley recognized on Fortune’s 2021 ‘World’s 50 Greatest Leaders’ list

Willie Ray Fairley
WIllie Fairley Fortune

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- Willie Ray Fairley, the acclaimed owner of popular Willie Ray's Q Shack in Cedar Rapids, has received another prestigious nod for his community work.

Fortune has named him number 16 on their 2021 list of 'World's Greatest Leaders,' the business publication's eighth annual ranking.

Highlighted in this distinguished group, Fortune recognized Fairley for his work in feeding the Cedar Rapids community following the devastating August 2020 derecho. Fairley didn't stop giving after the lights came back on, he was out in the community for months donating free food as the city continued to recover.

"In Iowa, in a year defined by the pandemic, disaster, and bitter political division, Fairley, who was recognized by Gov. Kim Reynolds in her annual January address, was the rare hero who transcended all that," Fortune's report on Fairley said.

Fortune says the list is a mix of outstanding people in different fields, some who are nationally famous, and others who are not, but all have shown exemplary leadership.

"Some were already extraordinary achievers in business, government, philanthropy, athletics, and the arts. Others were ordinary citizens. In truly unprecedented times, each stepped up to make the world better, and inspired others to do the same."

Fortune's explanation, in part, of their ranking

On the list, Fairley was ranked just below two doctors. Other notable people joining Fairley as 'Great Leaders' are Stacey Abrams (8), Dolly Parton (11), Tom Brady (22), Sen. Tim Scott (25), Megan Rapinoe (37), and more.

Similar to Fairley, celebrity chef Guy Fieri was also on the list (42) for serving meals during a crisis. Fieri's team helped feed firefighters and first responders during the long-lasting wildfires of 2020 in Northern California.

Fairley has used what he was able to do following the derecho as a blueprint to help more people in need. More recently in 2021, Fairley and a team of volunteers traveled to Texas during the state's disastrous winter storm.

He and his team continue to serve those in eastern Iowa shelters, without a home, and who still are affected by the derecho. 

Author Profile Photo

Andrew Pearce

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

Skip to content